Death is not the End

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Benjamin Franklin once declared, “The only guarantee in this life is taxes and death.” References to our mortality is oftentimes an uncomfortable topic for humanity in modern Western civilization. We do not want to hear, nor discuss, that all things eventually die. Decay of our bodies and deterioration of our minds is a sinister notion. Because of the fall, death [and sin] entered the world. God’s original plan for His greatest creation—mankind— did not involve dying and eventually being buried six feet under.

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 Bleakness, death, and despair hounded me over the few months. My wife and I suffered another miscarriage in December and my grandfather suffered a heart attack at the end of 2017—he passed on from this life on January 15th. Along with my personal encounters with suffering, I attended a funeral Mass for a stranger—my first such event! Our parish priest during the close of the Sunday liturgy told the congregation of a tragic story about a young military mother who died of brain cancer. He notified us of the funeral time to see if anyone wanted to attend to support her family.

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Such macabre normally causes me pause—and even fright—however, the school of suffering taught me that death is not the greatest fear in this world. Grounded in my faith combined with the teacher of experience, I learned that death is not the end! While moments of despair linger daily, hope persists. Earlier in 2017, I read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book ‘You Did it to Me’: Divine Mercy in Action. In hindsight, picking up his work at the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in my church’s atrium was a turning point in my spiritual life. For those that have not heard of this title, the premise of the book involves providing practical ways to infuse divine mercy into our daily living.

Chapter Two of Divine Mercy in Action focused on the corporeal works of mercy of paying our respects to the deceased and welcoming strangers. Fr. Gaitley provided pages at the end of each chapter for practical tips to grow in holiness. Attending a stranger’s funeral—one of the suggestions— piqued my interest. I thought I would have to wait until my children were grown-up in order to actualize the corporeal work of “burying the dead” in my own life.

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The Holy Spirit works a mysterious and curious manner. Heeding my priest’s words, I scarified my time, something of myself. In a sense, I died—died to my fear—fear of showing up to an event where I knew no one aside from the presiding priests at the funeral. One caveat on this point, I actually did not stay for the entire Mass and I never was able to enter the church! Instead, I roamed the church vestibules as I brought my two young children with me. Frequently chasing my runaway two-year old eventually got the better of me. Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t require you to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

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The saint of Calcutta’s wisdom provides us hope. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.  The sainted nun stated, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” Hearing those words always helps to re-orient my gaze toward hope and aids me in trusting the Lord. Jesus urged his apostles [and us today] in Matthew 16:24-26 to plunge headlong into the suffering of the Cross in order to fully follow Him. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides all believers the hope that death is not the end! My grandfather was a humble man of steadfast faith. I confidently hope and pray for the repose of his soul that he is able to experience the joy of the Beatific Vision. I prayer for the souls of my unborn daughter and the young military mother whose funeral I attended as well.

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“Eternal rest grant unto them [these three beautiful souls], O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” 

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A Prayer to the Lord in Difficult Times

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Lord help me to realize that the obstacles that have been placed my way today are not a stumbling block for my daily living. Help diminish any anger I hold inside when I face such difficulties. I ask for the grace to view these hindrances and obstacles as opportunities to grow in holiness and patience.

Amen.

A Plea to the Lord in Time of Need

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Lord I hate sin and death. I loath injustice in the world. I despise my inequities, my feelings of doubt nearly every day of my life. I want this depression to leave me. I am weary from the fight against myself, my fears, and the constant barrage of assaults against the devil. Death seems to surround us at all times. Wars, natural disasters, political strife dominate the news climate. Darkness lurks over me in recent times. My grandfather is nearing the completion of his earthly life and  there is a great chasm in my soul left by the wound remaining from the loss of my unborn daughter Lucia.
The only suitable response in the face of this suffering and overwhelming despair is to petition you Lord God the Almighty to send me strength and consolation in my moments of weakness. I plea for the support of the Blessed Virgin Mary along with her Holy cache of saints to protect me from the prowess and threats of the Evil One.

Amen.

Columnist Opportunity I Received!

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I hope everyone’s start to 2018 is off to a good start. We have been experiencing an frigid beginning to the new year in the Midwest. Despite the frozen conditions, my hope in the Lord always melts away the rigidity of my wounded soul. I am pleased to announce that I will be featured as a columnist for Catholic Stand starting January 12th. With my commitment to writing for that site my work on this blog has taken a little bit of a backseat. I do apologize for the diminished content. Writing for multiple platforms is a new venture for me. While balancing the two will contain challenges, I will still be making regular posts on The Simple Catholic blog.

I also want to say that I appreciate all my readers commitment and support of me during this new [and still learning] phase of my writing career!

FYI: I will update this post later to include the link to Catholic Stand upon publication of my article.

My 2018 Resolutions

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Normally I do not formally publish my New Year’s Resolution as I try to incorporate my goals throughout the calendar year anyways. This year is a little bit different as I currently am in a slump of desolation.

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Writing down a list of goals would be able to jump start my personal development. While smaller miniature goals will come and go throughout 2018 as the seasons change I want to spell out my top five 2018 resolutions I want to strive constantly:

  1. Attend Eucharistic Adoration Once a Month: Jesus tells us that he is the bread of life. It only makes sense that in order to grow closer in my relationship Him I go more frequently to Eucharistic Adoration. I really have no good excuses to fail this goal.

 

  1. Attend Confession Once a Month: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23) God gifted humanity with the opportunity to receive forgiveness of our sins against Him, our neighbor, and ourselves. This grace is free and I need to make better and more frequent use of this opportunity to experience God’s Mercy in 2018.

3. Exercise Patience: As a husband and a father of three young children, I am given many opportunities to share God’s love. Unfortunately, in 2017 I failed a lot. I pledge to use family life as a way to grow more in holiness in 2018.

4. Exercise My Muscles: Along with growing in holiness, I resolve to exercise at least three times a week to acquire a healthier lifestyle. I always felt more energized after working out and hopefully this momentum will propel me towards a better spiritual life as well!

5. Read at least 10 Minutes a Day: I am already doing this goal for the most part. From the time of elementary school to the present I have always been an avid reader. I want to continue this part of my life in 2018.

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St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in his spiritual work The Way, “Make few resolutions. Make specific resolutions. And fulfill them with the help of God” (no. 249). We need the Holy Spirit to aid us in our life’s journey and maintaining our New Year’s resolutions in 2018 [and beyond]. I ask that you pray for me to help me in my spiritual journey on this earth and please know you all are in my prayers as well. God Bless you and your family during 2018!

Absolute Zero: How I Experienced the Frostiness of Truth this Winter Week

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It seemed like I was living in the Arctic Circle this past week. Chilling winds, snow, and ice permeated my city. I despise the cold. I mean really despise it. Perhaps it is because of the constant whipping icy winds that hit my face as I walk to work from the parking lot. Or maybe it is because my wife and I are limited in the options for taking the children during the week. Regardless, I despise the cold!

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Meteorologists forecast a -40 wind chill factor in our region. This news may halt our family’s Christmas travel plans. I am worried about the state of our water pipes, I do not want to come home from traveling to find busted pipes due to the insane cold. Winter seems hopeless at times. Yet, somehow amid this apparent gloom the Holy Spirit always finds a way to show me hope in on the horizon. Suddenly, I found myself singing [in my mind] the lyrics to the Christmas Hymn In the Bleak Midwinter. Here are the lyrics for those that wish to sing along with me too:

In the bleak mid-winter 
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him 
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter 
  A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, 
  Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim 
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk 
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels 
  Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel 
  Which adore.

Angels and archangels 
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim 
Thronged the air,
But only His mother1
 In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved 
  With a kiss.

What can I give Him, 
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
  I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, 
  Give my heart.

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Upon listening to these words, I am provided hope. Honestly, I need hope. Absolute zero scientifically occurs at −273.15° Celsius. This week certainly felt like absolute zero both in temperature and my temperament. I recently took up a new position at work and I am struggle with change. Negative, cold thoughts permeated my mind. Things at home have not necessarily gone better.

I received St. Josemaria Escriva’s spiritual work The Way as a generous lagniappe from an anonymous person from my local church. The Spanish priest seems to have written specifically to me. Josemaria frankly told me, “Don’t be so touchy. The least thing offends you. People have to weigh their words to talk to you even about the most trivial matter. Don’t feel hurt if I tell you that you are…unbearable. Unless you change, you’ll never be of any use” (The Way, 43).

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If I heard these words without knowing that a canonized saint penned them, I would be disheartened and probably swiftly move onto the next pages of The Way. Instead, Josemaria’s quote stuck with me [similiar to how a child’s–or even a daring adult– tongue sticks to a frozen flagpole. That is the truth about truth, it remains with you. Like a seed planted, the Spanish priest’s words germinated in my soul this week.

My hope continued to grow after I performed a sacrificial deed for my spouse. My wife mentioned she wanted to take the children out to a local gymnastics facility to relieve their cabin fever. Driving her SUV to run errands, I noticed her air pressure was low on the back driver’s tire. I struggled about whether I wanted to fill up the tire during my shopping run or wait until the temperature rose above zero. I felt a strong debate occur in my mind about the pros and cons. Most of it went back to me being not wanting to endure the sub-zero temperature. Finally, I just admitted that my wife’s day would go better if she did not have to worry about filling up a tire–especially if it deflated more over night! This simple act helped me grow in holiness this winter week.

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Interestingly, certain lifeforms actually flourish in frigid climates. The moss Calliergon giganteum actually has the ability to grow in a frozen aquatic habitat–living in the bottom of cold tundra lakes. Wintertime is often viewed as a hindrance to growth, to the vivacity of life. Decreased sunshine and inability to go outside sometimes contributes to seasonal depression. Hopelessness dominated a lot of my December, however, the hope planted by the Holy Spirit through Josemaria’s wisdom and grown through my good deed for my wife helped overcome the despair I felt. Winter may not be good for the human body– at least my body– but oddly enough, maybe my frosty experience with truth was exactly what the Divine Physician prescribed for my soul.

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A Birthday Letter to the Infant Son of God

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Below is a letter I dedicate to our Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of his birth, December 25, 2017 Anno Domini. 

Dear Baby Jesus,

In a stable, 2000 years ago, a seemingly ordinary infant was born. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shepherds and kings from afar learned about His incredible presence. God uses the most common of circumstances to work the greatest of all miracles–the Incarnation. God so loved the world He sent you–His only Son– to bridge the great gulf, the separation caused by sin.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, you my king took the form of mankind. I have heard the Nativity story dozens of times. This Advent I feared I would took your origin story for granted. Instead, I am grateful for the opportunity to gaze on the Nativity scene through new eyes–not merely of a follower, but also as a father.

My children performed in our parish’s Nativity Play. They donned the roles of a shepherd and an angel. The joy that gleamed from all the faces of my children–and the rest of the children in the play– warmed my soul. People are born everyday on this earth, but only once a year do we remember the greatest birth of all.

Jesus my servant king, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God-hero, I adore you and celebrate with my family and friends the anniversary of your birth. I pray that my heart is enlarged to make room within the inn of my soul for you, my family, friends, and people I meet daily! Praise we to God in the Highest and Alleluia for our Savior’s arrival.

 

With great love and gratitude,

Your adopted son, Matt

***For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.***